Geia is a renowned singer/songwriter, guitarist, didgeridoo player and influential figure in the development of contemporary Indigenous music. He writes music of bravery and beauty, telling of Aboriginal life in Australia, of the quest for justice and belonging, of history, family and love.
“I want to promote change and understanding, melodically and harmoniously,” he says, “while still sharing the little known aspects of Aboriginal history.”
He came to prominence with legendary band, No Fixed Address going on to form his own bands, always including remote Indigenous communities on his tours. Geia was also a founding member of The Black Arm Band (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMg-AAo2qN8, and featured in the documentary Murundak: Songs of Freedom that went to air on SBS in 2011 to much acclaim.
He has performed with renowned American saxophonist Pharaoh Saunders and shared Indigenous culture with jazz luminaries such as Branford Marsalis and Australia’s Bob Sedergreen (Art Attack). He played support for Ray Charles, BB King and Jimi Cliff. One of his personal highlights was performing (and welcoming) Nelson Mandela on his visit to Melbourne in 1990 at the Melbourne Entertainment Centre.
Many renowned musicians including Archie Roach, Paul Kelly, Shane Howard and Ross Hannaford have performed his songs. In particular, his song Yil Lull has stood the test of time and travelled the world, most recently it was included on last year’s NIMA Awards CD Then and Now. Even after more than 30 years it is always high on the playlists of Indigenous songs for festivals, radio and important dates (such as NAIDOC celebrations). It is regularly described as the Aboriginal anthem and many schools, choirs, and bands both here and overseas, are singing his songs.
He has been invited overseas on many occasions, sharing his knowledge, culture and music with a heartfelt commitment to making a difference and creating understanding through music. He continues to tour and write and share.
Yil Lull, was released in 1988 (the year of Australia’s bicentennial), on the Only Gammin’ label, and achieved an unprecedented level of critical and commercial success for an Aboriginal performer. He toured nationally in support of the album on the “Uncle Willie” tour of 1988 and reached a wide audience. The album was considered vitally important among Aboriginal people, and was well-timed to express a growing sense of pride in culture and identity, and hope for the political fight for land rights.
Stylistically Geia’s songs fit the category of roots music and range from simple Pacific songs to reggae, jazz and funk. The songs are written in Aboriginal language and English, and touch on universal themes as well as issues and history of Aboriginal Australia
Joe Geia tours nationally and internationally, including Ireland, Italy, Germany and the UK taking with him, a message of education and reconciliation through music – the universal language.
Geia continues to perform, most recently at the Powerhouse Brisbane with Whichway Uncles and Aunties alongside Getano Bann, Shellie Morris and Troy Brady.
He now also works with Indigenous prisoners in songwriting workshops putting into practice his belief in the healing power of music and his career and analysis of his songs are included in the course “Contemporary Australian Indigenous Music” by Dr Christopher Sainsbury at The Australian National University School of Music.
“Through his music he asks us to not to sustain in mourning but to commemorate, not to rise in anger but to live in hope, and he also asks us to share in traditions that he brings to us through song. His music therefore is music of consequence for all Indigenous people, and for all Australians. “
– Dr Chris Sainsbury Professor of Music ANU
Geia is also pursuing his passion to see Yil Lull joined with the second verse of Advance Australia Fair (the verse that welcomes people from across the seas) as a combined anthem that recognises the First People in our national song just as South Africa and New Zealand have done. There are now several schools in Victoria singing this combined anthem each week at assembly.
And now his solo career has been captured with a special three-disc compilation that brings together his remarkable solo releases for the first time. The release includes his classic albums Yil Lull (1988) and Nunga, Koori and A Murri Love (2005) and 2017s, North, South, East & West.
Joe has never stopped writing, recording and touring.
“Perhaps it is in the words of Joe Geia’s bicentennial lament ‘Yil Lull’ (1988) that we can find the quintessential mix
of grief and hope, acknowledgement of the past and optimism for the future,
that has characterised Indigenous popular music in recent decades;
‘I sing for the red and the blood that was shed… and I’m singing for the gold and the new year, young and old…
now I’m singing just for you…”
— Sian Prior Music in Melbourne – Celebration and Survival [11.02.2011]
Although Geia originally wrote Yil Lull dedicated to the new Aboriginal flag in the mid 70s and performed it at many concerts it wasn’t recorded until 1988 when it appeared on his 1988 album of the same name. Yill Lull means sing in Kuku Yalanji. The colours used in the lyrics are the colours of the Aboriginal flag and it is often described as the Aboriginal anthem.
The album was considered vitally important among Aboriginal people, and was well-timed to express a growing sense of pride in culture and identity, and hope for the political fight for land rights. As Geia says, the Aboriginal flag that flies beside the Australian flag across Australia is the silent flag — it too should have a song (anthem).